United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
A. KIMBALL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on Plaintiffs' Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment. The parties have fully briefed the
motion, and the court has scheduled a hearing on the motion
for June 26, 2019. However, for the reasons stated below, the
court vacates the hearing.
court has provided the background of this dispute in several
previous orders. The parties had a quilting partnership for
several years. They then had a falling out and have been
litigating issues relating to the separation of their
interests. Plaintiffs' present case involves the
ownership of and potential infringement of copyrights. The
parties dispute whether Marcea Owen and Janice Liljenquist
are joint authors of the copyrights, whether Lone Star owns
the copyrights, and what exactly the copyrights cover with
respect to the quilting patterns.
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment seeks summary judgment
regarding authorship of the works, ownership of copyrights,
and Defendants' alleged lack of a license in the quilts.
In response to the motion, Defendants filed a Rule 56(d)
Affidavit requesting discovery prior to the court's
ruling on Plaintiffs' motion. See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(d). Under Rule 56(d), “[i]f a nonmovant shows by
affidavit . . . that, for specified reasons, it cannot
present facts essential to justify its opposition, the court
may: (1) defer considering the motion or deny it; [and/or]
(2) allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to
take discovery.” Defendants' Affidavit states that
they have had no meaningful opportunity to conduct discovery
in this case because Plaintiffs filed their Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment prior to the court's hearing and
ruling on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and
Defendants' filing of an Answer. “The central tenet
of Rule 56(f) [now 56(d)] is that ‘summary judgment
[should] be refused where the nonmoving party has not had the
opportunity to discover information that is essential to
[its] opposition.'” Burke v. Utah Transit
Auth., 462 F.3d 1253, 1264 (10th Cir. 2006)
(quoting Price ex rel. Price v. W. Res., Inc., 232
F.3d 779, 783 (10th Cir. 2000). Pre-discovery
motions for summary judgment are rarely granted and are
disfavored. See Patton v. General Signal Corp., 984
F.Supp. 666, 670 (W.D.N.Y. 1997). The granting of summary
judgment with no discovery is to be “granted only in
the clearest of cases” because of the importance of
discovery for all parties. Id.; see also Miller v.
Wolpoff & Abramson, L.L.P., 321 F.3d 292, 303-4 (2d
Cir. 2003) (“Only in the rarest of cases may summary
judgment be granted against a plaintiff who has not been
afforded the opportunity to conduct discovery.”).
case, Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is
premature. Defendants' Affidavit states that they had not
had an opportunity to depose Marcea Owen or the parties'
accountant prior to filing their opposition to the motion.
That discovery is critical to Defendants' ability to
oppose the motion. The court must decide the motion based on
evidence in the record, not the parties allegations and
assertions. For example, in Plaintiffs' reply memorandum,
Plaintiffs respond to an assertion by Defendants by stating
that the Second Amended Complaint indicates that Lone Star
owns the copyrights. At the summary judgment stage, a party
cannot rest on the allegations of its complaint-it must
submit evidence. There are too many factual disputes between
the parties relating to joint authorship of the patterns for
the court to rule on the issue prior to the parties being
deposed. Although one party may claim that the quilting
pattern was created after the parties went their separate
ways, the other party may claim that she was involved with
the pattern's creation and it was merely finished after
the parties discontinued working together. There are also
factual issues related to Lone Star and Marcea Owen's
relationship that are relevant to ownership issues. These
types of factual matters are necessary for a proper
resolution of the legal issues before the court. Therefore,
depositions of the principal partners and others with
evidence related to the parties' partnership will be
crucial to the court's consideration of joint authorship
the court concludes that additional discovery is necessary,
the court grants Defendants' Rule 56(d) request and
denies Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as
premature. The court grants the parties four months to
conduct any additional fact discovery that is necessary in
this case. The parties may extend all corresponding deadlines
as well and submit an Amended Scheduling Order to the court.
on the above reasoning, Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment [Docket No. 73] is DENIED without prejudice
for being premature. ...